My writing process

Forgive the navel gazing, although that’s arguably the beauty of a blog no one really reads…

A colleague of mine, discussing which section of the magazine would be most appropriate for an article I’m writing, described my writing process succinctly and, I think, accurately:

You tend to arrive at judgments as you write, to check those judgments with experts, and to share them with readers.

I liked the description, but found myself wondering about the distinction I posted recently between the “textbook” voice and the “nuanced advocate”. Should I be more consciously pushing my writing into one or the other category? My colleague’s description seems to put my method somewhere in the middle.

Then I remembered a post I’d written in 2010, responding to writer Jim Henley’s description of the “blog-reporter” ethos. His aim was to distinguish bloggers who also do reporting from both straight news reporters and bloggers who simply opine. The blog-reporter ethos was:

* original reporting on first-hand sources
* a frankly stated point-of-view
* tempered by a scrupulous concern for fact
* an effort to include a fair account of differing perspectives
* ending in a willingness to plainly state conclusions about the subject

And, Henley continued:

I submit that this is just magazine-journalism ethos with the addition of cat pictures. If you think about what good long and short-form journalism looks like at a decent magazine, it looks like the bullet-points above

In my post, I went to quote Andy Revkin, then an environmental reporter at The New York Times, describing his blog Dot Earth:

I’ve spent a quarter century doing “conventional” journalism, and sought to create Dot Earth as an unconventional blog. It is not a spigot for my opinion. It is instead a journey that you’re invited to take with me… Lately, I’ve been describing the kind of inquiry I do on Dot Earth as providing a service akin to that of a mountain guide after an avalanche. Follow me and I can guarantee an honest search for a safe path.

My approach, as my colleague accurately describes it, isn’t exactly what either Revkin did or what Henley had in mind. But I see a lot of similarity. I see what I do as a very specific kind of “reporting”: reporting on ideas. And my intention is not only to relay facts from that reporting but to combine the methods of explanatory journalism with the expertise of researchers and academics in order to, I hope, answer important questions as best I can.

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